Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:24-26

24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.

26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.

The hypocrisy in Judah is incredible. Three months prior he crept into the tent of a prostitute, but when he hears that his daughter-in-law has herself been a prostitute, he demands that she be burned! Not only is Judah hypocritical in this matter, but also in how he has done nothing but shirk his responsibilities to his daughter-in-law for years, yet once he believes her to be in infraction of her contract also, he immediately seeks justice against her!

Then, at last, the moment of revelation comes. Tamar has shrewdly held onto the signet, bracelets, and staff that she was given by Judah. They are clear markers of his identity and there is no question that she was the prostitute he met along the road, and he is the man who is the father of her child.

I do not know whether levirate law permitted for a widow to be given to his father, but it is worth noting that rather than go to some stranger Tamar had kept the whole affair within the family, and she only did what she did after Judah was a widower, with no other lawful wife. It may still be a shocking course of action, but Tamar deliberately chose to operate within the very limited restrictions that she had, rather than totally abandon her commitments.

All these matters turn Judah’s anger in an instant. He has been found out in front of others, and at last he admits his own unrighteousness. He has lived an unholy and lustful life, which has borne him a most awkward fruit, and at last he owns that shame. “She hath been more righteous than I.”

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:19-23

19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her veil from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 

20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.

21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.

22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.

23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

Judah attempted to make good on his deal with the unknown prostitute, but he sent a friend to bring her the promised kid instead of going himself. I can’t help but suspect he was anxious to not associate with the woman any longer than what it took to get what he wanted from her. In verse 23 he admits that he does admit that he has some shame in this area.

Judah’s desire to pay off the woman and get back his things is reminiscent of his attempts to offload Tamar on her father. In each case he was trying to wash his hands of a problem, trying to clear himself of responsibility, but without actually resolving it.

Which, of course, is something that we can all relate to as well. We do something selfish or lustful or conniving, and we quickly try to flee the scene, concerned only that we not be caught in association. It is a desire to live without consequence, to reap the benefits as if we had chosen rightly, but dodge the punishments for having actually chosen wrong.

Which, ironically enough, is the very same freedom that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us! We can have the burden of our sins placed on another and live freely, as if we had never done the wrong. But the first step towards receiving that freedom is not to run from our mistakes, it is to wholeheartedly own them. Only when we make space to hold our failings do we have the option to then hand them over to a willing Savior. We run from God so we won’t have to face consequences, but He has been trying to take them from us all along!

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:15-18

15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?

17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?

18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.

The family soap opera takes a shocking turn as Tamar seduces her own father-in-law under the pretense of being a prostitute. As mentioned before, Judah had tried to pawn her off on her family, not leaving her many honorable recourses if she wanted to bear children, but this is still a highly unpleasant solution to her problem.

Fortunately for Tamar she thinks ahead, and tricks Judah into giving her all the personal signifiers that he is carrying. In other words, she takes his identity from him. And so it is with us whenever we give into temptation also. We do not only perform the act, we sell a part of ourselves to it. By her guile Tamar gained a position of power over Judah by obtaining direct evidence of his own shame. So, too, when we give a part of ourselves to sin, it gains power to drive us where we would not.